You know that really long boring safety speech we all pretty much ignore before we take off for any flight? Remember how they always say to always put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else? The reason is simple: if you don’t have oxygen yourself you are pretty useless to anyone else. While all of this speech seems pretty self explanatory in terms of what to do in case of an emergency, what you probably never realized is that they were giving you a priceless piece of life advice. You must put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you can help anyone else. In other words, you have to take care of yourself before you can really help anyone else.
This is a basic truth for everyone, healthy or sick, that every single one of us tends to forget. We get so caught up in keeping all our balls in the air that more often than not the ball that is our own welfare is the very first one to get dropped. We sacrifice our sleep, our health, our energy, even our mental health to keep the little things, that seem much more important than they really are, going. We do this time and again until ultimately we have neglected ourselves to such a point that all our balls come tumbling down right on our head.
Why do we do this? I suspect that we forget that we actually DO need to take care of ourselves. We believe that somehow, magically, by keeping up with everything else, we are taking care of ourselves. It’s not true. At all. Even a little bit. No matter how much you would like to believe otherwise. The truth is that we actually need to take time and care for ourselves. That putting ourselves first should not be a rarity, it should be a consistency. If you don’t put on your own oxygen mask, you simply can’t do anything else. Try as you might.
This is true with chronic illness especially. We deal with so many challenges day in and day out that we can easily get lost in the minutia of keeping track of our medications, our doctors appointments, not upsetting our bodies, while still keeping up with our relationships, housework, the kids, the bills, in some cases our work, and we absolutely forget that we need to do something just for us. Plus because our health slows us down we always feel behind, and we tend to feel guilty for taking any time we don’t absolutely need. Truth is, we absolutely need self care. Something to make us happy. Something to calm us. Just a little time every day to do for ourselves whatever it is that we need. No one but us knows what we really need and no one but us can really give it to us. So it really is our own job to meet this need.
I know that some of you might think that what I’m talking about is being selfish, but it’s not. This is the opposite of selfish. When you do right by yourself you can also do amazing things for other people, because you are coming from a more stable and compassionate place. You have so much more to offer when you are mindful enough to take just a little time out of every day to take care of you. If you do this, bit by bit, you will find that it is an easy habit to form and the pay off is exponential.
This approach is also a great tool in relationships, something that suffers terribly when you are chronically ill. There is such a break down of understanding, some much difficulty in understanding each other, and often there is a lot of resentment on both sides. All of which is very understandable, being chronically ill and those of you living with us have a rough life. It’s a huge challenge and everyone involved needs to acknowledge how it effects them and take care of themselves. You can use the term oxygen mask as an easy way to communicate that you have reached a point where you need to take care of yourself right now. Whether you are having an intense conversation or out in a social situation it’s a quick way to call a time out or communicate a need to leave. I have a friend that designated an oxygen mask day every week in his relationship, where his partner was to put herself first and communicate any issues or needs regardless of what she thought he might need at that moment. It worked great.
Really, You Deserve It!!!! Take Care of You! Thems the rules!
Everyone gets caught up in the details of everyday life and it’s human nature to put ourselves last. To forget that we need some TLC too. So take a moment, consider your own needs, put them first every once in a while. So go ahead, take that bubble bath, take an hour to read, watch you favorite show, have that glass of wine, or piece of chocolate, get a massage, color in a coloring book, they have ones for adults now and I’m looking into it for myself. I can’t think of anything more relaxing than a good set of colored pencils and an intricate design and at the end you have a piece of art you created. Just do something for you. Something that will make you smile, even if only for a moment. Designate days with your partner to discuss your hurts and worries, days where you each put yourself first, you’ll be surprised at the result. It’s not selfish. It’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you and all of you deserve it. Trust me!